Meeting an athlete’s calorie needs – 20 wholesome calorie rich foods and examples on how to use them

food for performance

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three examples of calorie and nutrient packed meals

While many of us struggle to cut down on calories to lose or maintain our weight, top athletes often have a hard time meeting their daily caloric needs, especially when building muscle in off-season and while carb loading just prior and during intensive multi-competition events. Plus, keeping away from high calorie refined and processed foods is even more difficult if cooking is not your thing or if there is a need to eat on a budget.

The good news is that there are good wholesome calorie packed food options, which you can buy in almost any grocery store and are easy to prepare. Take a look at the list below and at the practical tips on how to mix and match them for healthy high calorie meals that taste great any time of day.

High calorie fat rich foods

At 9 calories/gram, fats are the highest calorie dense macronutrient. These are some high-fat and calorie dense ingredients to include in your diet.

· Plant oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil (40/tbsp)

· Butter (100/tbsp)

· Coconut milk (550 calories/cup)

· Nut butters (150 calories/2 tbsps)

· Avocado (300 calories/avocado)

· Full fat Greek Yogurt (300 calories/cup)

· Seeds (pumpkin, 700 calories/cup)

High calorie protein rich foods

Most high calorie protein rich foods also pack a significant amount of fat and/or carbs. Some protein rich foods that are calorie dense include:

· Medium baked chicken leg with skin (100 calories)

· Salmon (200 calories/100g)

· Chickpeas (boiled, 268 calories/cup)

· Baked beans (392 calories/cup)

· Ground meat (300 calories/100 grams)

· Mixed nuts (800 calories/cup)

· Cheese (cheddar, 500 calories/cup)

High calorie carbohydrate rich foods

High carb foods are important for athletic performance, especially just prior and during caloric demanding competitive events. Some great choices carb choices include:

· Boiled rice (250 calories/cup)

· Banana (100 calories/medium banana)

· Dried fruit (400 calories/cup)

· Cooked quinoa (220 calories/cup)

· Cooked pasta (200 calories/cup)

· Granola (400 calories/cup)

There are some great ways to mix these calorie dense foods and make wholesome meals. Also, you can play with ingredients to meet demands of training specifics regarding whether you need more protein or carbs. Some examples are:

Smoothies – mix yogurt and/or coconut milk, banana, nuts, and you can add some dried fruit or a tbsp of coconut oil or protein powder for more calories and/or protein

Curries – cooked chickpeas, with coconut milk and spiced with curry powder. Serve with chicken leg (or salmon or ground beef) and cooked rice

Sandwiches – nut butter banana (or apple) sandwiches

Frittatas or omelets – Although I did not include eggs in the above list, eggs are an awesome way to bind ingredients together and/or to use up leftovers. Almost anything works mixed with eggs (top with cheese for extra taste and nutrients).

I hope this helps, and remember, you can always add nuts or seeds to your meals for an extra dose of protein and some added calories. Also, always cook extra to keep and re-invent throughout the next few days. Most importantly, enjoy exploring your food self and bom apetite!

This piece was originally published on Sofia’s blog at

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